To read about F's and my London trip, start here and click "newer post" to continue the story.

Monday, January 11, 2010

So three people have been reported to have opened their mouths.

Evidently, according to the new book Game Change, Bill Clinton tried to get Ted Kennedy's support for Hillary over Obama in the last primary and he said this to him:

A few years ago, this guy would have been getting us coffee.

And Kennedy took this as a racial remark, and became very cold to Clinton afterward.

I don't know whether Kennedy took it that way or not (and in fact I don't know that Clinton even said it) but I really don't believe that if Clinton said it, he meant it that way. I don't think he would have had that thought, that as a black man Obama was meant to be a servant, and if he had, I don't think he would have voiced it expecting to get support. He probably meant that Obama was a newcomer in the political arena and that Hillary had paid her dues and was ready for entry into the old boys' network of Democratic politics.

One of the irritating things about the current state of race relations, of course, is that the worst possible construction is routinely put on what people say. Was it Eric Holder who said that Americans need to quit being too cowardly to have a real conversation about race? Ha ha.

The second remark is Harry Reid's, as reported in the same book, and acknowledged by him:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada described in private then-Sen. Obama as "light skinned" and "with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one." Obama is the nation's first African-American president.

Once again, I'm not seeing the big deal here. The word "Negro" is not in current use very much, but I'm not aware of its being a pejorative. Reid's point was that Obama's presentation is mainstream enough that he could be a strong presidential candidate, and in fact he was. It would be nice if such things as skin tone and dialect weren't relevant to a candidate's acceptability, but we'd be better off if a lot of things were less relevant: how physically attractive a candidate is, for instance, especially a female.

The third remark, by Blagojevich, is a big deal.

I'm blacker than Barack Obama. I shined shoes. I grew up in a five-room apartment. My father had a little laundromat in a black community not far from where we lived. I saw it all growing up.

So Obama is less black than Blagojevich because he was raised in a wealthier household. "Black" is equivalent to "not affluent". Charming.


theolderepublicke said...

Yes, my (former) governor just makes me prouder and prouder every day that I now call Illinois my home state :)

For what it's worth (perhaps not much), I tend to consider "Negro" at least mildly pejorative because, to me, it recalls a condescending, paternalist attitude toward black people. I realize, of course, that not everyone shares my views of the word and that we should take what people say as a whole.

Anonymous said...